By Mark Schremmer
Football said goodbye to one of its greatest players of all time this past weekend.
The Oakland Raiders’ 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium marked the end of an exceptional career for defensive back Charles Woodson.
Taking into account everything Woodson achieved collegiately and as a professional, there’s no doubt the Ohio native should be included on the short list of all-time greats.
And that’s not limiting him to one of the best defensive backs ever. Instead, Woodson’s all-around skills and success at all levels makes him one of the best athletes to ever put on a helmet.
Woodson is sure to become only the ninth player to win the Heisman Trophy and be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The others include Doak Walker, Paul Hornung, Roger Staubach, O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen and Barry Sanders.
After rushing for 3,861 yards in his high school career, Woodson was named Ohio’s “Mr. Football” and received high school All-America honors from USA Today in 1994.
With many colleges coveting Woodson at running back, Michigan recruited him to play defensive back.
Woodson was an instant success. He led the Wolverines with five interceptions as a freshman and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and to the All-Big Ten first team in 1995. He was a first-team All-American in 1996 before enjoying an all-time great season in 1997.
The definition of a playmaker, Woodson helped the Wolverines to an undefeated season and a share of the national championship. He picked off seven passes, returned one punt for a touchdown, caught 11 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for a touchdown and even completed one pass for 28 yards.
It was enough to edge Tennessee’s Peyton Manning in the Heisman voting. Woodson remains the only primary defensive player to win the Heisman.
Surprisingly, Woodson fell to No. 4 overall behind Manning, Ryan Leaf and Andre Wadsworth in the 1998 NFL Draft.
That was certainly good news for the Raiders. Woodson was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and to the Pro Bowl. He was named to the Pro Bowl his first four seasons in Oakland and helped the Raiders to three consecutive playoff runs, including a Super Bowl appearance after the 2002 season.
Woodson joined the Packers in 2006 and was named to four Pro Bowls (2008-11), while helping Green Bay to five playoff runs and a Super Bowl win in 2010.
He returned to the silver and black again in 2014. While older, Woodson remained one of the game’s best defensive backs. He recorded five interceptions this past season and was named to his ninth Pro Bowl.
The former Heisman Trophy winner finished his 18-year NFL career with 983 tackles, 65 interceptions and 20 sacks. He’s recorded the fifth most interceptions in NFL history and is the only player to register at least 50 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Even though Woodson is 39 years old, he ended his pro career the same way he started it — as one of the best players in the game.
Mark Schremmer has been a sports reporter since 2000 and has covered games at the professional, college and high school levels for the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Joplin Globe.
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